Adam Minkoff

Tony Maceli Full Vinyl Tribute to Yacht Rock at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Tony Maceli organized and hosted another Full Vinyl show last night at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. I opened my post about the previous show with the following:

Tony Maceli is one of the top bass players in the NYC indie music scene. Some months ago, he started organizing a regular mega-show called Full Vinyl. Last night was the first one we were able to attend, so I don’t know whether we’ve missed one or two. I also don’t know whether the format is always the same (or going to be). This show was at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

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Now I know. Last night was #4, so we missed two of them before hopping on the train. If we’re physically able, we’ll never miss another one. Last night’s show was simply fantastic, on every level.

It’s a touch ironic to say that. The theme was Yacht Rock. Not that the songs that fall under that heading aren’t awesome (they most definitely are, well nearly all of them are), but clearly, there’s a tongue-in-cheek phenomenon going on when kids (yes, the oldest musician on stage was a kid to us) select that music to highlight.

That said, whether they, or the large crowd at Rockwood were singing with any condescension, I certainly couldn’t tell. The party started instantly with Footloose, and never slowed down until the big finale. So many audience members were singing their hearts out to every song, so this wasn’t a trip down memory lane that left them in the dust.

An excursion before I dive into the show itself. At the last Full Vinyl show, Tony swore on stage, quite a bit.

Sometime after the show (days, weeks, I don’t remember exactly), we ran into Tony and got to chat for a while. He brought up the cursing and said that although he loves to curse, and does it all the time, even he felt that he was over-the-top at the show. We didn’t disagree. Winking smile

He had a very interesting suggestion. He offered that at the next show, he’d put a dollar into a tip jar every time he cursed. If he made it through any speech without cursing, we’d put a dollar in. At the end of the night, all of the money would be given to the Rockwood staff. (To be 100% accurate, he offered that he’d keep doubling his $1 each time he cursed.)

We agreed. At last night’s show, both sides happily remembered the wager and rules. We gave our waitress a $20 bill in exchange for $20 singles. We started out with an empty glass. We ended up with a large bucket (the normal Rockwood tip jar).

Tony expanded it to include any performer on stage who was game to toss a buck in if they cursed. Martin Rivas cursed just for the heck of it, and immediately tossed $1 in. Smile

Tony offered the audience the chance to participate if they wanted to toss money in to reward the lack of swearing. People did indeed come over to our table and toss money in! When an audience member at the table next to us cursed, she immediately felt self-conscious and reached into her purse and tossed $1 into the bucket. Cool!

Tony didn’t curse a single time during the show (proving that he can control it completely). Right before the finale, he came out with a number of singles in his hand. After letting out a few expletives, he tossed all of the singles in the bucket. Aside from the release, he clearly wanted to participate in the additional tips to the staff and this was the best way to accomplish that. Smile

When the show was over, Lois presented Erin (who happened to be our waitress the entire evening) with the bucket on behalf of all of the performers and audience members who chose to participate in the challenge. I don’t know how much others chucked in, but I just counted six singles left from our $20, so at least 14 times, we (or more properly Lois) thought that the performers behaved well enough to be rewarded (even if the reward was going to someone else).

Erin

I judge the experiment a complete success. It was Tony’s idea and he deserves full credit.

Something that deeply annoys/affects us is the often constant talking (at volumes that are not to be believed!) that goes on in the audience, even by obvious fans and friends of the performers. Lois thought that it might be interesting (albeit perhaps impossible!) if we had a challenge whereby talkers were shamed into putting $1 in the jar every time someone pointed them out. Somehow I doubt we’ll pull that one off as smoothly as we did the cursing challenge, but I would love to see it happen.

Back to the show…

Loosely following the format I established last time (ain’t precedent grand?), I’ll post the set list first, then the lead singers for each song, then the infinite (no hyperbole here!) band members immediately thereafter. Where someone was a singer and a band member, I’ll note that.

Tony decided to have fun with the set list, giving most people one or more nicknames for their first names. For most, he used their real last names, which made it a tad easier on me. Thankfully, I figured out who Michael McMinkoff was. Winking smile

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As with the first show, Tony Maceli kicked it off. I already told you that they shot out of the gate with a bang. Now you know who led the charge. In addition to playing a lot of bass, Tony played the trumpet on at least two numbers.

TonyMaceliBassTonyMaceliTrumpet

Zach Jones sang from behind the drums. He was great. He also drummed on a bunch of numbers (look for Jones throughout) and was awesome. I had to look around people to see who was drumming on the finale (Africa by Toto), because the drums were so rich and tasty. Surprise, it was Zach! (I say surprise in mock, obviously, since I think so highly of Zach’s play that I wasn’t surprised. But, every drummer last night was incredible, so it really could have been any one of them and I would have believed it!)

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Zach also stepped out from behind the drums to sing some background vocals.

Misty Boyce sang wonderfully. Not quite the barn-burner that caused me to describe the aftermath of her song at the last show as “we were all reduced to a puddle”. Misty also played the keyboards on some songs.

MistyBoyceSinging

Deena Goodman was exceptional. I’ve only seen Deena sing once before, at a Livestrong fundraiser, 2.5 years ago. I praised her mightily that night. She did a lot of charity work and then I heard she returned to get a graduate degree, so I wasn’t surprised not to see her performing. Perhaps she needs to rethink that!

DeenaGoodman

Adam Minkoff was amazing (hence earning the only double-nickname, since Tony believes he’s very faithful to Michael McDonald). Adam also played bass and I even saw him wield an electric guitar.

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Julia Haltigan continues to impress every time we see her (which will continue to be frequent if she keeps up this level of performing). That said, she’s playing tonight, but I’ll be typing away at this while she’s doing that.

JuliaHaltiganSingingJuliaHaltigan

Charlene Kaye did a great job, also playing lead electric guitar for her own number! In addition to singing lead on Go Your Own Way, Charlene also sang backup on a number of songs.

CharleneKayeGuitarCharleneKayeRobDiPietro

Emily Long was wonderful on her number. Like most of the other lead singers, she returned to sing on the finale.

EmilyLongSingingCharleneKayeSethFaulkEmilyLong

Greg Mayo sang lead on Private Eyes. There was a delay in starting the song for a wardrobe change (calm down folks, this wasn’t a wardrobe malfunction). Greg left the stage while Tony explained that Greg needed to get a special jacket from the green room. Greg emerged wearing a leather jacket that was originally owned by Daryl Hall. I wrote about the jacket, and the song (Private Eyes) when Greg performed it at his last Greg Mayo Band show.

GregMayoSinging

He was great then, and again last night, but it was really cool to see him perform it on lead guitar last night, whereas he was behind the piano at his last show. Of course, Greg also played electric and acoustic guitar (amazingly, as he always does) on many other numbers.

GregMayoElectricGuitar

Casey Shea was once again wonderful. Once again (consecutive shows now), he descended into the audience to serenade a woman within inches of her face. This time, he sat down (last time he lay down on the table). It was the same woman though, Lois. So, to see whether she was his target, or just convenient, I’m going to have to have her sit in the balcony next time Casey sings. We’ll see if he climbs up there to sing to her. If so, I’ll know what the deal is. Winking smile

CaseyShea

Casey also sang backup on some other songs.

Brian Collazo (of Live Society) thrilled (as he always does) when he sang lead. He was also one of the primary backup singers on many songs, and he was oh-so-tasty on each and every one.

BrianCollazoSinging

Patrick Firth sang wonderfully while playing the keyboards. He was also the primary keyboard player on most of the numbers (though he did relinquish it occasionally). The relinquishing was perhaps reluctant. On one number, he hung around and played the top of the double-decker keyboards while his replacement played the bottom.

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Morgan Paige didn’t sing lead, but she joined Patrick to sing on Sailing. Since I didn’t notice her on stage for any other numbers, I’m mentioning her here.

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Josh Dion ripped it up again, vocally and on the drums. How anyone can watch him perform and not be mesmerized is beyond me. Of course, I shouldn’t assume that there’s anyone who isn’t mesmerized, so my hypothesis might just be incorrect.

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Martin Rivas sang his way into our hearts. In addition to singing lead, Martin was on stage as much (perhaps a bit more) than Brian Collazo was, singing with everyone else. He played some tambourine too (as did a few others that I failed to note above).

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That leaves the big finale, where most of the singers took a turn at the mic. In a small-world twist, two posts ago I mentioned that The Vanity Belles performed Africa by Toto during their set (which was on the same stage, a few hours earlier). Their acoustic version was fantastic. To end the night with a stage full of people, supported by a top band, performing the same song, was an interesting contrast. Both versions were amazing, even though they were totally different.

On to the band. I’ll mention them in the order that they appear on the set list. If you pay attention, many of them played on multiple songs. I won’t repeat anyone who is mentioned above.

Dan Tirer on electric and acoustic guitar. I’ve only seen him once before, at the last Full Vinyl show. Must… see… more… of… him… He’s so good!

DanTirer

Matt Simons on saxophone and electronic keyboards. At the last show, Matt played only the keyboards. That’s great, but if you really want to add some awesome sauce to the mix, make sure you catch Matt on the sax, he’s incredible. One one number, he was the only brass. On another, he and Tony played together, with Tony whipping out his trumpet. More, please!

MattSimonsSaxophoneMattSimonsKeyboardsMattSimonsTonyMaceliBrassSection

Andrea Longato on electric guitar. Holy smokes, what a nice surprise. I’ve only seen Andrea once before, when he played with Carley Tanchon in February. I was blown away that night and I’m happy to have gotten a taste again last night.

AndreaLongato

Matt Basile on electric bass. Another in a string of great NYC bass players who never disappoint.

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Jamie Alegre on drums. Jamie always delivers. For me, that’s usually when he’s playing with Derek James. He was great at the last Full Vinyl show as well.

JamieAlegre

Steve Dawson on acoustic and electric guitar. I can’t say that I really made out his acoustic guitar (tough to hear it over all of the other instruments), but I can tell you that his spirit (demeanor) fit in perfectly. He was having a blast (like the rest of them were), as we all were too.

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Rob Calder on electric bass. Excellent! My first time hearing Rob.

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Spencer Cohen on drums. Spencer is fantastic, whether he’s on drums, percussion or cajon. Last night, it was the drums.

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Scott Chasolen on electronic keyboards. He’s a great pianist, no further information required! I mentioned above that Patrick Firth hung around to play the keyboards with someone else. It was Scott. Smile

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Ignore the next name on the list, as Mark Marshall didn’t end up making it to the show…

Ben Zwerin on electric bass. Another stellar performance from Ben.

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Tommy Diehl on drums. My first time, won’t be my last. He did a great job.

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Rebecca Haviland on electronic keyboards and vocals. Rebecca backed Charlene Kaye on Go Your Own Way, singing (great) and playing the keys (also great).

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Rob Jost on electric bass. Another winning performance.

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Robert DiPietro on drums. Again (as with the last Full Vinyl), a superior effort on the drums.

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Ryan Vaughn on percussion and drums. Ryan is always one of the most masterful percussionists. In addition to playing on a number of songs, he was joined on percussion by Josh Dion for the finale, complementing the already-mentioned drumming of Zach Jones. Ahhhhhh.

RyanVaughnTambourine

Oscar Bautista on electric and acoustic guitar. I had already gotten to enjoy a full set of Oscar earlier, when he played with The Vanity Belles. When they were setting up for Full Vinyl, I saw Oscar and Greg Mayo on stage at the same time, tuning and sound-checking their guitars. What a lineup of guitarists, independent of the others who I have already oohed and ahhed about.

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Seth Faulk on drums. Man, it’s been way too long since we’ve seen Seth play. Over three months to be precise. It’s not our fault. He was on an extended tour across the country and just recently returned.

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Chris Anderson on electric bass. As with Oscar, we enjoyed a full set of Chris’ play with The Vanity Belles earlier. You can never get enough Chris, so having more of him in the same evening was fine in my book!

ChrisAndersonSinging

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny wore sunglasses, so he might have been trying to hide from me. It’s been roughly two weeks since I’ve seen him play, which is an unusually long stretch for us to go without Kenny. Fantastic job on the drums!

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Tom Welsch on electric bass. Tom was superb. It was my first time seeing him.

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Paul Amorese on drums. Another tremendous performance!

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I think that’s everyone. Someone will spank me (and I’ll gladly update this) if I missed anyone.

A few group shots:

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We got home around 2am. I have to say, I was still really energized and was not at all hoping the show would end. On the other hand, I went to bed at 2:45 and woke up at 7am (and have been up since), so the candle can’t be burned at both ends every night, no matter how much fun it is at the time.

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HadarCaitlinBrianCollazoManishGosaliaKennyShaw

Adam Minkoff Randomonium 9 at Rockwood Music Hall

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Adam Minkoff has a regular gig at Rockwood Music Hall, called Randomonium. It’s typically (always?) on a Wednesday night, starting at midnight.

We’ve been fans of Adam’s for a while (mostly for his bass work, but we’ve also seen him do wonders on electric guitar, a floor tom and sing up a storm as well). We had no idea what to expect at a Randomonium, but we had an interest in finding out. We missed the last two, just because we couldn’t stay up that late on those particular nights.

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Last night was an epic night on a number of levels, and we weren’t going to let a little something like a midnight start get in the way of continuing the epicness. Before Randomonium, we attended back-to-back sets in Westchester, then drove to NYC and caught back-to-back sets at Rockwood 2, then headed over to catch Randomonium at Rockwood 1, already in full swing when we walked in at 12:15am.

Whatever I saw last night, I can’t be sure is worth describing for past shows or future ones. After all, Randomonium is the name for a reason!

If I had to guess (extrapolate), I’d say it’s a chance for Adam to gather as many talented people as he can on a given night, pick a bunch of songs that might have no relation to each other, then perform them, with a lot of jamming to show off the individual skills. Toss in a commercial jingle or two, done over and over throughout the set to give you the sense that it was being sponsored (last night was the Mentos theme, complete with an actual roll of Mentos!).

Adam wailed on the bass throughout the set and sang a ton. He’s great. He also had an infectiously good time up there.

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Last night’s collection of musicians, left-to-right on stage:

Michael Eaton on saxophone. He ripped it up multiple times.

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Jackie Coleman on trumpet. She didn’t play quite as much as Michael did, but when she played, she was excellent. When the two played together, they were like a full brass section. I was standing three feet from them, so I got the full treatment (in the best sense).

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Mark Marshall on electric guitar. Mark was one of two lead guitarists. Mark was also one of the few people on the stage that I’ve seen a few times before. I’ve noted that he’s excellent on the guitar, and not conventional at all.

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Yuval Semo on grand piano and electronic keyboards. He was fantastic! At one point, Adam teased him to play some Bach, in honor of his birthday. Yuval said no, but then started playing some variations, sounding awesome. Then Adam challenged him to play it in different styles, one after another. One of the styles was “Billy Joel”. Yuval was up to the task each time Adam commanded a new style.

YuvalSemo

Nick Oddy on electric guitar and vocals. Nick shared the lead guitar duties with Mark, but Nick was more prominent on stage because he was heavily involved in the vocals. He was also the Mentos spokesperson, singing the jingle and offering up the actual Mentos’ to anyone who wanted them. He was also excellent on the guitar!

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Abby Ahmad on vocals and tambourine. I’m a big fan of Abby and her voice. This was hard-core rock and Abby is more than capable of belting it out, even over seven musicians who are wailing as hard and loud as they can. Abby also played the electric guitar on one number.

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Adam Christgau on drums. There was a time, in 2009 and 2010 that I used to write about Adam at least once a week. Then he started touring outside of NYC and now it’s the rarest of times that we get to see him. We were committed to attending this Randomonium anyway, but I admit to having more than a little sense of excitement when I saw this tweet:

Adam Christgau ? @adamchristgau

First gig back in NYC since December. Playin w/ Adam Minkoff’s Randomonium at Rockwood 1. Midnight! Free! Come out freaks!

Yes, it’s been a while (six months) since we’ve seen Adam perform a full set. Last night, he was on fire. He had to be, to keep up with the insanity going on in that room. Whew!

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Xenia Rubinos came up to sing one song taking Abby Ahamad’s place in center stage. She sang her heart out, keeping up with everyone else.

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Marco Buccelli replaced Adam Christgau at the drums for the same song that Xenia sang. He too was incredible on the drums (all of the songs were super fast).

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At 12:53am, Adam announced that they had one song left. I admit to being really happy to hear that. I had been standing since we arrived at Rockwood 2 at 10:38pm and this was my fifth consecutive set (and it was louder than the previous four combined!).

Little did I know that the last song at a Randomonium can easily last 1/2 an hour! I guess I should be thankful that this one only lasted 20 minutes. Each person gets to take a long solo (there were typically eight people on stage at a time). It was an epic ending to an epic night, but I was glad when it was really over and I could rush home to crash.

No music tonight, just a fabulous dinner catching up with an out-of-town friend of 30 years! Tomorrow night we crank it up again. Smile

Abby Ahmad at The Living Room

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Abby Ahmad was at The Living Room last night. I only learned about the show a few days ago and immediately changed our plans (from doing nothing, we need some of those nights too every once in a while). Unfortunately, it was a 10pm start time, but you do what you have to do to see the people you want to see.

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I’ve only seen Abby once before, performing three songs at Backscratch XVII. Here’s what I wrote about her that night:

Abby Ahmad was up next. Another first for me. Great voice, very interesting guitar play. I really liked her songs as well. In other words, someone I intend to go see doing a full set soon (she’s playing Rockwood on Thursday at 11pm, but that might be too late for me that night).

I was happy to follow through on that intention.

AbbyAhmadElectric

Again, Abby displayed an incredible voice. Again, her guitar play was quite interesting (she can definitely hold my interest as a solo artist). She’s also a very good songwriter. Again, she was accompanied by an excellent band. This time she even threw in two wonderful guests. Abby also played the piano on one number, very well.

AbbyAhmadPiano

Still, the set didn’t leave me with the feeling I expected. Some of the issues were out of Abby’s control (perhaps most), some were not (or at least I perceived them as somewhat controllable).

Before mentioning a few of those frustrations, let me heap some serious praise on the core band and the two guests. Left-to-right on the stage:

Sean Dixon on drums (once again, no good individual link). This was the fourth time we’ve seen Sean. It was also his best performance, largely because it was a full set of mostly rock, so he got to open it up more than in previous shows. The first time we saw him I mentioned that he’s particularly good on the cymbals. That was true again last night.

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Adam Minkoff on electric bass and light background vocals. Adam is one of our favorite bass players. He’s a very good singer and electric guitarist as well, but that’s not what he plays in Abby’s band. He also played the floor tom in one song (as he did the first time we saw Abby), but I’ll get to that later.

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Mark Marshall on electric guitar. We’ve seen Mark a couple of times now and his guitar play always impresses (though it’s often unconventional). He was quite good last night as well, but he used a few too many effects for my taste (mostly in closing out numbers in a fuzzy fashion). Like Adam above, he played a floor tom on one number.

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Jason Crosby on grand piano. Jason joined Abby for two numbers. He took a couple of long leads and otherwise played amazingly. I’ll describe his play as wow, in order to be as accurate as I can be. When we walked out, Jason was standing at the bar. Lois walked over to him to tell him how awesome he was. I was much more articulate. I looked at him and said: “What she said!”.

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In case you didn’t bother clicking through to his MySpace page, let me paste his bio in here for you. Look at who he’s played with, and you’ll understand my wow above. Of course, we experienced the wow, without having a clue as to who he’s been chosen to play with/by:

Over the last decade, Jason has been a member of Robert Randolph and the Family Band and the Susan Tedeschi Band, among others. Over the last few years, Crosby has played with Carlos Santana, Pete Seeger, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Matthews in various configurations. His discography is equally as impressive with appearances on Anastasia’s multil-platinum hit “Freak of Nature” to Tedeschi’s Grammy Nominated “Wait for Me”, just to name a few. After 15 years of touring, Jason has recently returned to his native New York to write, record, and produce with many NYC artists, while keeping his overall focus on writing and recording his own music.

Morgan Cohen (no good individual link). Interestingly, I can’t find a good individual link for her under her maiden name either, even though she achieved quite a bit of fame as Morgan McOwen. In 2009 she was a contestant on Season 8 of American Idol, getting the Golden Ticket to Hollywood. She joined Abby to sing harmony (gorgeously) on two numbers. She definitely has a great voice, so it’s easy to see even three years later how she made it to American Idol.

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Back to Abby and some of the issues with the set. This was a much fuller band with Abby playing electric guitar on half of the numbers. She was excellent on the guitar, but with everything so much louder, it was harder to hear (or rather concentrate on) much of her lyrics. That’s a shame, because I’ve already mentioned that I think she’s a very good songwriter.

Many of the songs were new (no issue there). They were way more rock than I expected (also not an issue, just caught me by surprise). In fact, on the first two numbers, if I closed my eyes, I could have guessed that Grace Slick was singing Jefferson Airplane songs (just ones I hadn’t heard before).

So, why was the set frustrating?

It was scheduled to begin at 10pm. The band before didn’t stop playing until 10:20 and then had to tear down. Abby and her band, but mostly Abby and Mark took a long time to set up. I would rather wait it out and get it right (obviously), but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant. Their set started at 10:40pm. Ouch.

Second, I am normally extremely impressed with the sound engineer (and system) at The Living Room. Last night was not their best, with volumes distorting at times and some of the sounds on the shrill side. That was exacerbated by the much louder rock set than the previous Rockwood numbers I had seen Abby play.

To add insult to injury, Mark’s amp acted up on him (I could still hear it, so I don’t think it completely blew out). That delayed a song quite a bit in the middle of the set. It wasn’t clear what they would do, until the next band scheduled offered up their amp. Day saved, but again, at the cost of discomfort and delay.

Abby joked that they are the “King, Queen and Court of technical difficulties” and that therefore this was just par for the course. I hope their luck improves.

Let’s end on a more positive note. The first time we saw Abby, I raved about her opening song (I didn’t know the name then). Adam didn’t play the bass, instead he drummed on a floor tom, with Sean Dixon using the rest of the drum kit. Last night they closed the show with that song (I think it’s Give It Up) and added even more of a flair with Mark Marshall also playing a floor tom, making for three drummers playing simultaneously. I loved it!

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I will definitely go see Abby again, as soon as possible. Ironically, she’s playing tonight at Rockwood 1, with Mark, in a new blues/rock group that they are calling Fife and Drom. The show starts at 10pm. We’ll be at Joe’s Pub earlier and won’t be able to make this one. Next time!

Here is the set list:

SetList

Backscratch XVII at Rockwood Music Hall

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Last night we attended the early show at Joe’s Pub. Under normal circumstances, we would have run home after the show. These were not normal circumstances. Over at Rockwood Music Hall, timed perfectly for us, was Backscratch XVII. That would have been more than enough to get us to stay out for another few hours.

More poignantly, and most unfortunately, this was also billed as the last NYC-based Backscratch. Folks, that’s simply a tragedy (of reasonably large proportions). The concept of Backscratch was originated by Martin Rivas (and I think Craig Meyer). It will live on in London, run by Alex Berger, but unless I can find a way to blackmail Martin (or twist his arm really hard), it’s going to be very expensive to catch one of these shows in the future.

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In addition to just wanting to catch any Backscratch show, the lineup for last night was particularly tasty. Every performer was particularly sharp (they understood the stakes), so it ended up being an extra-special night all around.

Quick recap of what a Backscratch is: 6-9 performers. Each does three numbers. One has to be a cover of one of the other performers. They get drawn randomly and no one knows in advance who is doing their song. For the other two numbers, deep tradition has the artist performing one of their originals plus a well-known cover. More recently, many artists perform two originals.

Stephanie White and the Philth Harmonic were up first. The Philth Harmonic is Robbie LaFalce (considering that Stephanie’s name appears separately and there are only two of them). Let’s start with Stephanie. We’ve seen her sing one song, at one of Sam Techman’s Leave a Lasting Mark benefit shows. She was extraordinary then, and again last night. The woman can sing, pure and simple.

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We’ve seen Robbie LaFalce three times, all at Sam Teichman benefits. At the first, he drummed. The second, he played piano. The third, he drummed, played piano, and sang. Last night, he played the electric guitar on all three numbers. Beautiful play, subtly, but interestingly supporting Stephanie.

RobbieLaFalce

This was the first time that we saw them play together, as the Philth Harmonic.

Unlike most Backscratch performers, they chose to do their cover as the middle number (there are no hard-and-fast rules). They drew The Vanity Belles. I am not familiar enough with the VB version to tell you how much Stephanie morphed it, but I can tell you that Stephanie was exceptional in performing her version.

On one of the numbers, Robbie added a percussion loop and some looping of him clapping and playing guitar. It created a much bigger sound than the two of them would otherwise have.

Morgan Karr was up next. I had never seen him before. He kicked it off on the grand piano, playing beautifully, but really, showing off a great voice. For the next number, he came to center stage and just sang (he had accompaniment) without playing any instrument. Again, his voice really shone and I really liked his songs as well.

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For his backscratch, he sang accompanied by only an upright bass. He drew Jay Stolar. Again, I wasn’t familiar with Jay’s song, but Morgan nailed his rendition of it, hitting some high notes spectacularly.

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Morgan was accompanied by two top-notch musicians:

Justin Goldner on acoustic guitar. I’ve seen Justin a number of times, mostly playing bass for Bri Arden and Sam’s benefits. I also saw him play acoustic guitar for a very intimate performance of Bri’s. He blows me away on the bass, but hadn’t on the acoustic guitar that one time. Last night, supporting Morgan, he showed a lot more skill on the acoustic guitar.

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Lorenzo Wolff on upright bass. Very good on the first two numbers. On the backscratch, he was the sole accompaniment (Justin sat that one out and Morgan sang). Hearing just a bass with a great vocalist really highlights how good (or not) the bass player is. Lorenzo is really good! Smile

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Abby Ahmad was up next. Another first for me. Great voice, very interesting guitar play. I really liked her songs as well. In other words, someone I intend to go see doing a full set soon (she’s playing Rockwood on Thursday at 11pm, but that might be too late for me that night).

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For her backscratch, she drew Morgan Karr. Another winner (both the song and her rendition).

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Abby was accompanied by two extremely talented people:

Adam Minkoff on electric bass and floor tom. On Abby’s first number, Adam took the floor tom from the drum kit and brought it up on stage. He and the drummer (up next) played together, mostly on the rims first (in unison) and then separately, creating an extraordinary jungle rhythm for Abby to sing to.

AdamMinkoffSeanDixon

For the next two numbers, Adam switched to his more usual electric bass, and of course, was his usual excellent self.

AdamMinkoffBass

Sean Dixon on drums (again, no good link for him). This was my second time seeing Sean, and again he was excellent. In addition to playing the drum kit (minus the floor tom which Adam swiped, he also played the djembe on one number, beautifully. In fact, he put the djembe where the floor tom would have been. Not sure where else he could have placed it otherwise. Smile

SeanDixon

Jay Stolar was up next. We’ve never seen Jay do his own stuff, but have seen him sing a song here and there (as a guest, and at a benefit concert). He has a superb voice which was in full effect last night and played the acoustic guitar. I really enjoyed his two songs.

JayStolar

He drew Derek James for his backscratch. He chose Mama Said (it helps that I’m Derek James’ biggest fan, self-declared, so that I at least know which song Jay was covering). He played it so much slower than Derek does, but it totally worked. I’ll still take Derek’s version, but huge Kudos to Jay for creative arrangement and execution!

Jason Wexler accompanied Jay Stolar on his two numbers, sitting out the backscratch. Jason was superb on the grand piano. It started off in a funny manner. Jay began by picking on one or two notes, repeatedly, in a slow rhythmic manner, alone, no singing and no piano accompaniment. After a minute, Jay turned to Jason and said “Feel free to join in any time!”. Winking smile

JasonWexler

Jason laughed and immediately launched into a fantastic series of piano leads. Satisfied, Jay started singing. Smile

Derek James was up next. This was the first time I’ve seen Derek solo. I loved both of his numbers, which he dedicated to Terry. He kicked it off with What’s That Sound from his first CD, Stray. In a small-world story, I didn’t have that CD (though I’ve seen Derek perform the song a number of times), but Lois had secretly arranged with Derek in advance to purchase the CD last night, so I have it now! Smile

DerekJames

I was totally satisfied with Derek’s solo performance, but I admit that with the full band, there’s a swagger that was missing last night.

Derek drew Stephanie and the Philth Harmonic for his backscratch and did a beautiful job. Another example of me not knowing the original, so I can’t compare the versions.

The final act to close down the NYC-based backscratches (unless I have my way with Martin!) were The Vanity Belles. I’ve mentioned how much I love them a number of times, even though the first time I’ve ever seen them perform live, as themselves, was just this past Wednesday at a benefit show.

They were stripped down last night, the two Belles, Carrie Welling and Jessi Rae Waltz, accompanied by the amazing Oscar Bautista on acoustic guitar (they typically have a full band).

OscarBautistaTheVanityBelles

They opened with a brand new song that so blew me away I can’t find the words to describe it. I happened to be standing next to their manager, Patryk Larney, and I couldn’t contain myself after the song. I turned to him and said: “Holy cow, that was absolutely extraordinary!”.

He said that he agreed, and they just finished it and rushed to get it on the new CD (of which I am a very proud Kickstarter contributor). I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to know that I will soon own this song.

CarrieWellingJessiRaeWaltzOscarBautista

Their next song had Jessi move to the grand piano. It too was absolutely breathtaking.

They finished with their backscratch, drawing Abby Ahmad. Another mind-blowing performance, and I really loved the song too (credit for that to Abby, obviously, though I have no idea how her original version sounds).

Folks, if The Vanity Belles don’t make it, the world is very broken.

They closed the show by awarding Martin Rivas with an actual backscratcher, dated and signed by everyone who appeared last night. A very nice gesture indeed!

MartinRivasBackscratcher

Here a pic of Alex Berger, currently the only Backscratch Master, with Jay Stolar. Alex has a show in 3 hours at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, so hurry up and get over there! Smile

AlexBergerJayStolar

Red Delicious Apples at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Greg Mayo is a member of a number of bands. Some are long-standing (e.g., his own Greg Mayo Band), some are formed spontaneously (e.g., the Red Delicious Apples). The Red Delicious Apples were slated to play their first-ever gig last night at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, at 11:30pm. That’s late for us, but whenever we make the effort to see Greg, it ends up being worth it.

GregMayo

We decided mid-week that we’d make it work. We even told our friends that we’d definitely be there. One of them emailed me late on Thursday night that Rockwood was listing the show at 12:30am. Ugh, that was going to be way harder to stay awake for. It seemed to me that there were three possible strategies:

  1. Remind myself that old people get up really early, and that 12:30am was like getting up really early on Sunday, rather than staying up really late on Saturday for an 11:30pm show! Winking smile
  2. Nap (for an extended time)
  3. Do something fun that energizes us, earlier, so that we’re not sitting around staring at the clock until midnight

A really smart person would do all three. We were really smart yesterday. Smile

We napped in the afternoon. We had company from 8pm until nearly midnight that was a blast (I think everyone was surprised when they realized the time). I even had time to check my email and Twitter before we got in a cab. The cabbie warned us that Second Avenue would be jammed. I found it a bit hard to believe at 12:20am, but he was right. We walked into Rockwood at 12:45, but the Red Delicious Apples (RDA) were just setting up. One of our friends was there to greet us as well. Perfect!

Evan Watson formed The Big Apple Singers (TBAS), which includes Greg Mayo. Evan has been touring all summer with Def Leppard and Heart. No one felt right performing under the TBAS name without Evan being a part of it, so TBAS was put on hiatus and other Apple-based groups were formed.

Greg is in all of them. The first was The Crab Apple Singers and they were awesome. The name changes if any of the band members change (so fans can rely on who they will see when they hear which Apple band is playing). With a new drummer and new bass player, the band was again renamed to the RDA.

What’s the draw? Four outstanding musicians, each of whom could hold your attention by themselves. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, they’re having a better time on stage than the rest of us. The good news is that the party is not exclusionary. We’re all invited to lose ourselves with them.

ZachJonesAdamMinkoffGregMayoHavingFun

They play classic covers, taking turns (not in strict rotation) singing lead (all four of them). Last night’s selection was eclectic enough to have a few songs that I didn’t recognize, though I enjoyed every one of them.

Greg Mayo on lead electric guitar and vocals. Greg kicked off the show at exactly 12:50am. His vocals were clear and strong and his guitar play is always mind-boggling, last night included. What’s most amazing is that he nearly always finishes off more strongly than he starts, and he starts at such a high level that it’s hard to imagine him elevating from there.

GregMayoGuitarAdamMinkoffGregMayo

Adam Minkoff on electric bass and vocals. When Adam is the headliner, his sets nearly always start at (or past) midnight, so we never get to see them. Here’s what I wrote about him the last time we saw him (earlier, because he was part of a large benefit concert):

What an absolute treat getting to see/hear him sing lead last night. He’s wonderful, and I will now need to nap on nights when he’s performing late, so I can stay up (at least once). I’ve already written a couple of times about how good he is on the bass. Last night was my first taste of him playing lead electric guitar.

Am I a prophet or what? Nap? Check! Stay up late? Check! Adam great on the bass? Check! Adam singing incredibly well? Double Check! He has a voice that’s built for Rock (and other genre’s as well).

AdamMinkoffSingingAdamMinkoffGregMayoSingingZachJonesAdamMinkoff

Zach Jones on the drums and vocals. Zach is a near-the-top-of-the-list favorite drummer, in such a short time. Both of us can’t get enough of him. While I primarily push my limits to make any Greg Mayo show, I’d push it to see Zach as well. In addition to mesmerizing on the drums, he too did a great job singing lead on a number of songs.

ZachJonesZachJonesSinging

He used a shaker on one song, eventually ending up with it in his mouth while he drummed with both sticks!

ZachJonesShakerInMouth

Patrick Firth on keyboards (electronic and grand piano) and vocals. Pat always delights on the keys with last night being right up there. His vocals were extremely strong as well, rounding out the fact that it simply didn’t matter which of the four was taking the lead.

PatrickFirth

Lois captured some of the heat coming off the grand piano and keyboards when Pat was dazzling us.

PatrickFirthPianoPatrickFirthKeyboards

Greg called out two birthdays from the stage. The first was Terry, someone who attends way more shows at Rockwood than we do (how is that even possible?). The waitress brought her a cupcake to celebrate.

Then he noted that it was John Lennon’s birthday and proceeded to play Ticket to Ride in his honor. It was awesome and the people in the audience were in obvious ecstasy.

RDA was prepared to stop when a normal set should have been over (roughly 45 minutes). Given that they were the last band up and that the crowd was totally into every note (including a bunch of people dancing with abandon), Rockwood allowed them to push on.

After each extra number, they looked at each other (and for permission from the sound guy) and played just one more. Before playing the real final number, Greg announced that after he sings this one, he wouldn’t have anything left in the tank, so this was really going to be it.

ZachJonesAdamMinkoffGregMayo

He topped off the night with Born on the Bayou, singing his heart (and throat) out, and knocking us all on our a**es with his guitar. In total, they were on stage for 70 minutes.

Before running out, I went up to Greg and said: “Sorry we couldn’t make it out tonight.” He was very quick in his response: “At least you considered making the effort!”. Winking smile

Given that we’re rarely out at 2am (Saturday or otherwise), we were shocked to not be able to find a cab. There were hundreds of them, all occupied, and every block had dozens of people hailing cabs. After about 10 minutes Lois hailed a livery car and we were home at 2:20am.

Worth it!

Leave a Lasting Mark Blues Brothers Tribute at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Every month, Sam Teichman produces a benefit concert. Proceeds go to different charities (one per show).

SamTeichman

Last night was for Ronald McDonald House of NY. If you want to get involved directly, with the NY chapter, here’s their contact info:

Ronald McDonald House in New York City
405 East 73rd Street
New York, NY 10021 USA
Phone: 212 639-0100
Fax: 212 472-0376

Each show has a theme. Last night it was a Tribute to the Blues Brothers. Sweet (both in theory, in advance, and in retrospect, now that we got to thoroughly enjoy it)!

The series is called Leave a Lasting Mark. The next one is on August 23rd at City Winery. It will be a different style, very special show. After that, they will return to the normal format, at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (where last night’s show was), on September 25th. That show will be a 3-hour extravaganza, paying tribute to The Last Waltz by The Band!

24 musicians participated in last night’s show (not unusual!). I’ll mention every single one of them, but I will not attempt to enumerate the combinations or tell you which people were on which songs. I’ll simply describe the evening in a few generalities. Here is the set list, just to put you in the mood. Smile

SetList

Every performer donates their time to these shows. That doesn’t just include time on stage, but time rehearsing (except when they show up last minute, not having made the rehearsal, and still blow the audience away!). We gave them many ovations last night, but you can do so (in your head) as you read along…

Who doesn’t love the Blues Brothers? Who doesn’t love Soul music? Who doesn’t love brass sections? Who doesn’t love high-energy live performances by dozens of people? If you raised your hand to any of those, leave now! (In starker terms, no soup for you!) Winking smile

Every song last night was packed with energy, delivered by top-notch musicians, with a passion for entertaining (clearly, they loved the songs they were performing). In the audience, a lot of head bobbing, foot tapping (and stomping), clapping (during the songs, to the beat). Of course, wide smiles all around.

One guy took it up a level, participating in much of the show from his seat. When we were called on to get up and Shake Our Tail Feather, he did, very enthusiastically. It was fun to see him so in the spirit. Fun, with the exception that he sat opposite me at our table, and in getting up with so much gusto, spilled his wine all over my jeans and soaked the floor around my feet. Oh well, the price of joy isn’t cheap. Smile (My jeans are in the laundry as I type this, thanks for asking!) Winking smile

There were a number of band changes (shuffles, all done reasonably quickly/efficiently). There were also a number of troopers who played on all songs (perhaps taking a break on one or two, but never leaving the stage. Sam had trouble getting a full horn section, so those that showed up did yeoman’s duty and were on stage start-to-finish. Let’s cover them first, giving them the credit they’re due.

Here’s the horn section, left-to-right:

Matt Thomas on alto-saxophone. You have to go down the page to see Matt’s bio. Matt was far-left on (and off) the stage all night. He did a great job, including a few short solos. At the end (I think in the finale, if not, close to it), he was highlighted even more and tore it up.

MattThomas

Marcus Graf on trumpet. Marcus did a superb job, with a number of short-burst leads. I would have enjoyed hearing him highlighted a bit more. At the end, Sam said that Marcus was a last-minute addition (they met yesterday), when someone recommended someone who recommended Marcus. Good job with the chain of recommendations! Smile

MarcusGraf

Mitch Marcus on tenor saxophone. He took a couple of smoking leads and played wonderfully throughout. I had the sense that he was one of the leaders on stage, but that might have just been because of his central location.

MitchMarcus

Sitting behind the brass section and playing on all but one song was another late addition.

Dave Pollack (a.k.a Shaky Dave) texted Sam at midnight (so technically, the day of the show) that he could make it. He absolutely killed it on the harmonica on every number. He took long, tasty leads. I was surprised that he didn’t rub his lips off.

ShakyDave

Sam was upset that he couldn’t get a 5-piece brass section, including a trombone, but I’m impressed with the last-minute additions of Shaky Dave and Marcus Graf, who along with Matt Thomas and Mitch Marcus created a big sound!

HornSection

Everyone else, in no particular order. That said, I’ll contradict myself immediately and list the female vocalists who didn’t play any instruments first.

Stephanie White on lead vocals. Stephanie was extraordinary (so I lied a bit about the order, I wanted to mention her first). Winking smile Her voice was strong and clear. More impressively, as the song got more feverish, it was climbing the scales. Stephanie kept hitting higher and higher notes, with the same power and clarity. When she hit the last few, I was worried for the dogs in the neighborhood and was equally surprised that humans could hear such a high (and clear!) sound. Wow!

StephanieWhite

Above, I linked Stephanie’s name to her own MySpace page. She is also part of a duo called The Philth Harmonic (actually, called Stephanie White and The Filth Harmonic). I already had them on my list to see, solely due to previously being impressed by her duo partner. Since he was a big part of last night’s show, I’ll save talking about him for later.

Crystal Durant on lead and background vocals. She goes by the moniker DJ Crystal Clear6 (as you’ll see if you clicked through). Another exceptional voice. She’s the one that sang Shake Your Tail Feather, so I blame her for being good enough to get the guy across from me excited enough to actually shake it, spilling his wine on me in the process. Not cool Crystal, not cool! Winking smile

CrystalDurant

Charlene Kaye on lead vocals. Another serious winner! All three ladies (Charlene, Stephanie and Crystal) were new to me. All three impressed me to no end.

CharleneKaye

As Sam reminded us multiple times, everyone on stage is a creator of music, not just a musician. He encouraged us to check out each of them when they are performing their own stuff. I will Sam, I will! Smile

Ashley Lehmann on lead and background vocals. I’ve seen Ashley do background vocals before, but this was my first time seeing her take center stage. She also did more background vocals last night than the others. Like the first time I saw Ashley on background, she did a very good job. Unfortunately, she wasn’t well matched for the song she sang lead on. That said, the song itself was still great, with the band nailing it like they did on every other number.

AshleyLehmann

OK, I’ll continue with the male singers who didn’t play an instrument (hard to resist a theme).

Bryan Lazerus on lead vocals (no good individual music link). Another first for me. Great voice. I enjoyed his number immensely! I see from his personal profile that he’s a guitarist, so perhaps some day I’ll see a fuller picture of his talents.

BryanLazerusBryanLazerusSinging

Sean Lauder on lead vocals. A number of people came dressed (partially) in Blues Brothers style. Sean came the closest, wearing a black suit, skinny tie and sunglasses. I don’t know why he didn’t complete the look with the hat. Perhaps he’s a hair guy. Winking smile Anyway, he put on a helluva show, dancing and singing his heart out. The voice didn’t impress like some of the others.

SeanLauderSeanLauderDancing1SeanLauderDancing2

On to the lead singers who also played instruments. Thanks to a cheat-sheet from Sam, these will mostly be listed in the order in which they appeared, but keep in mind that the ones above were interspersed among these!

Jeremiah Birnbaum and Scott Stein opened the show, alternating verses singing lead. Each of them is amazing in their own right, and I think they have more than one collaborative project together, but I know them best (together) as two of the five people in The Ramblers.

Jeremiah sang first and played lead guitar (on that and a number of other songs). He also sang lead on Rawhide, filling in at the last minute. He didn’t play guitar on that number. In fact, he asked Sam to find a guitarist and Sam let that slip through the cracks. In real-time, another performer jumped up and did a great job without having known he’d be asked to do so (I’ll get to him shortly, and refer back to this).

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I know I already said Jeremiah is amazing, but I wasn’t specific about last night. Great voice, great guitar playing, yes, last night too! Smile

JeremiahBirnbaumGuitar

Scott Stein is an incredible keyboards player. When he sings with the Ramblers, I really like his voice as well. I wasn’t as kind about a song he sang at the last benefit, but last night he was totally back on track. So, he has a really good voice, but it has to fit the material to really work. Last night, it did!

ScottStein

His keyboard play was exciting. When he took leads (a number of them), the horn section crouched down so people could see the magic more clearly (he was buried in the back of the stage).

Craig Greenberg sang lead and played keyboards and electric guitar. He was great on all three, with the latter (guitar) being the one on Rawhide Hey Bartender, filling in seconds before the song started. He had to sit while playing the guitar, because Jeremiah is so tall that the strap made the guitar hang down at Craig’s knees.

CraigGreenbergKeyboardsCraigGreenbergGuitar

Adam Minkoff on lead vocals (twice), electric bass and guitar. I just wrote about Adam on Saturday, after seeing him perform as part of Scott Chasolen’s trio on Friday night. I lamented in that post that I never get to see Adam sing lead, because his headlining sets typically start a midnight or later!

AdamMinkoffBass

What an absolute treat getting to see/hear him sing lead last night. He’s wonderful, and I will now need to nap on nights when he’s performing late, so I can stay up (at least once). I’ve already written a couple of times about how good he is on the bass. Last night was my first taste of him playing lead electric guitar.

Since he was singing, he started out mostly playing rhythm. But, when it came time for a solo, he was fast, clean and excellent. A multi-talented individual! I had never met Adam before, so I hung around an extra minute to find him and tell him how much I enjoyed his singing.

As if the above weren’t enough, he cracked us up a number of times with his extremely dry (and quick) humor, in response to some of Sam’s introductions. I won’t do justice to anything he said, so I won’t try.

Robbie LaFalce on lead vocals, drums and keyboards. I really enjoyed Robbie’s piano play at the last benefit. I really enjoyed his drumming at the one before that. So, when he played the drums last night, and kicked arse, I had nothing to complain about.

RobbieLaFalceDrums

Then he took it up from there. He sang lead while playing the drums (something I should stop being surprised at, but it’s still hard to wrap my head around it, even though I see it more often lately). Excellent voice. Later, he joined Scott Stein and they shared the keyboards. Beautiful!

RobbieLaFalceSinging

ScottSteinRobbieLaFalceKeyboardsScottSteinRobbieLaFalceKeyboardsCloseup

Robbie is the other half of The Philth Harmonic, and the reason they were on my list even before I knew who Stephanie White was. They will be playing an early show in Newark, NJ this Thursday (8/4/2011). If you’re in that neck of the woods, do yourself a favor and check them out.

Chris Kelly sang lead and played electric bass. This was our second time seeing Chris, both at these benefits. Again, Chris did a good job singing and an even better job on the bass.

ChrisKelly

There was one final singer, but I will save him for later (so be sure to stick around), because the finale requires a little section of its own.

Here are the rest of the musicians. Some sang background, some didn’t. In any event, the fact that they are listed after the singers means nothing. They were an integral part of the show, just like the horns were!

Jeff Litman on electric guitar. I’ve written about Jeff a number of times, always glowingly. Last night can be added to that list. Very tasty leads when he was on stage.

JeffLitmanJeffLitmanGuitar

Will Hensley on electric guitar. My first time seeing Will. He sounded good, but I couldn’t tell how much lead he was playing because he stepped back further than some of the other guitarists, so it was harder to follow him (visually).

WillHensley

Carlos Valdez on electric bass (couldn’t find a good link). Carlos was incredible on the bass. His strap was really short (obviously by choice), so the bass was up against his chest rather than his belly. Didn’t make a difference, his fingers were flying and creating beautiful bass lines! If you can’t tell, it was my first time seeing Carlos.

CarlosValdez

Megan Cox on keyboards. I didn’t recognize her even though we’ve seen her before. That was because she played violin (really well) at the Soul Revue Benefit. Let’s add talented keyboard player to her list of talents. I bet there are more gems awaiting my discovery!

MeganCoxKeyboardsMeganCoxSinging

Last, but absolutely certainly not least, the drummers! (I already told you how good Robbie LaFalce was!)

Dave Scalia on drums. Another first time, most definitely not a last time! I love drumming and good drummers (there, I said it). Lois can appreciate a good drummer too, but she’s not as obsessed as me. Occasionally she’ll turn to me and say “Wow, he’s good!”, and that will be that.

DaveScalia

Lois couldn’t stop raving about Dave. If Lois is raving about a drummer, you can bet I don’t need to pile on. Smile And, just in case you’re wondering, yes, she was correct in her assessment! Winking smile

Matt Arbeiter on drums (again, no good individual music link). Second time for us seeing Matt. Another excellent job, highlighted a bit more last night, so I was even more impressed.

MattArbeiter

Seth Faulk on drums. Seth wasn’t scheduled to play last night, though he’s participated in a number of these benefit shows. Since he was in the house, he was invited up. He played at least two songs (the last two I believe) and he was awesome.

SethFaulk

Time for the encore, but first, a word from our sponsors. Before the show started, we said Hi to a few of the performers. One of them is the only one that hasn’t been mentioned yet. I asked him what song he was singing and he said it would have to remain a mystery. Now I know why, he was the big finish, which included a surprise shout-out to me. Smile

For the finale, Sam invited everyone who performed during the evening to come up on stage. He remained there as well and picked up a tambourine, so we’ll count him as well (you’ll understand the point in a minute).

Bryan Dunn sang lead and played electric guitar. I really wanted to see Bryan’s set on Thursday and was reasonably sure I’d be back from Ian Axel’s show in CT in time. Unfortunately, we got back too late. Having Bryan close the show was therefore a very nice treat. He sings wonderfully, plays the guitar wonderfully and is an all-around nice-guy (and no, he won’t finish last! Hmmm, wait, he did finish last at this show…). Winking smile

BryanDunnSingingBryanDunnGuitar

For a while, there was a running joke on my blog. I would announce whenever a new record was set for number of performers on stage (at either Rockwood venue) at the same time. The record only counts when I’m there and only by my personal count, even if I count incorrectly. It may sound arbitrary to you, but I assure you, it’s completely scientific!

Sam has tried (in vain) to submit photographic evidence of more people on stage for shows that I’ve missed. But, I won’t be fooled. I know that agencies like the CIA and NSA routinely doctor photos, so it’s my eyes, or your effort simply didn’t happen/count.

Since Sam called everyone back up, and remained on stage himself, the number of people on stage should have been 25 (count up the names above and you’ll get 24, plus Sam). I am going to give full credit and call the record at 25! But, to be technically accurate, there were 22 people on stage. Matt Thomas was just off the stage to the left (though he wailed on the sax on this number, so he was an integral part of the song) with Matt Arbeiter and Bryan Lazerus just off the stage on the right. Safety first people, so I’m giving them the credit, for not doing something stupid just to achieve a bigger record!

The played an outrageously good and fun rendition of Sweet Home Chicago. Thanks Bryan (and your supporting cast of 24 others!) for closing out an already great show with a bang!

We attend a ton of shows (the proof is in this blog). One of the people that we see nearly every time is someone taking photographs with a much better camera than Lois uses.

Manish Gosalia is a professional photographer who takes extraordinary photographs of many of the musicians we love, both at live performances and at specific photo shoots. I’ll rectify having not introduced myself the next time we run into each other, but in the meantime, with his permission, I’m linking to a photo he took of the finale, from the balcony. Enjoy!

I have a feeling that the linked photo above may disappear (I had to use some tricks to grab the direct URL), so here’s the link to the original Flickr photo. You can click on LARGE to see the full version.

Scott Chasolen at The Living Room

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We’ve seen Scott Chasolen twice now, both very briefly. The first was at Backscratch 13 when he performed three songs (two originals) with his trio. The second was when he played piano on one number supporting his very talented wife, Mighty Kate (Katy Pfaffl). That was enough to put him on my list.

He played The Living Room last night, with a starting time listed at 11pm. I’m not sure we would have gone that late, but we were already going to see John Schmitt for the 10pm set there, so I was sure we’d stay. John’s set started 30 minutes late, pushing Scott’s back as well.

Scott is a wonderful piano player. He played both grand piano and organ/synth. He has an excellent voice. He played old and new songs as well as at least one cover. They ranged from slow ballads to synth-infused up-tempo jazz. At the core, Scott’s trio is a modern jazz sound.

ScottChasolen

Supporting Scott were the same people that were at Backscratch 13 with him.

Adam Minkoff on electric bass and harmony. Adam is an excellent bass player and has a nice voice, complementing Scott. Adam also sings lead on his own sets, but they rarely start before midnight, so we haven’t had the pleasure of catching him yet.

AdamMinkoff

Josh Giunta on drums. Josh is really fantastic. I thought so the only other time I saw him (at Backscratch). Here’s what I said that night:

Josh Giunta on drums. Excellent. A lot of eyes were on Josh during a fair amount of Scott’s set. No good photo of Josh, sorry.

The was meant to imply that his drumming was that good, but perhaps some people were staring at him for his good looks. Winking smile

JoshGiunta

Seriously, check him out. One of the things that I kept (foolishly) thinking was that he has an advantage because he’s so tall. His arms are so long that he appears to require less effort to reach the cymbals, etc.

Mark Marshall joined for one song on electric guitar. Scott joked that it would be interesting to see Mark play a song he’s never heard before (implying that they hadn’t rehearsed together). It took Mark a while to join in, so perhaps Scott wasn’t kidding. Once Mark got a feel for the song, he took a couple of very sweet leads, and complemented some of Scott’s great piano play with short bursts of guitar play as well. Very well done!

MarkMarshall

Here’s Scott’s set list (which he deviated from slightly):

SetList

Even though our eyes were drooping, we hung in there until the end. Got home around 12:40am, but didn’t get to bed until 2am. Will be dragging a bit today…

Backscratch 13 at Rockwood Music Hall

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Given how awesome last night was, I’m still a little in shock that I missed the first 12 Backscratch sessions. This was the second time it was held in Rockwood Music Hall.

Here’s the concept: gather a bunch of musicians. Each plays three songs. Traditionally (or so the legend goes) each played one original song, one well-known cover and one cover of another of the evening’s musicians, which they were each assigned at random! Now, it’s often two originals followed by the backscratch.

It’s great for many reasons (just come to the next one, June 27th, and make your own list of reasons to keep coming!).

Since there were so many people performing last night, I’ll be really brief (ha ha, I didn’t believe it when I first wrote it, but now that I’m proof-reading, I know it’s a lie!). Winking smile Refer back to the first line for how much we enjoyed the three-hour show: awesome!

Shwa Losben opened the show on vocals and acoustic guitar. I had never heard of him. Excellent! After playing two originals (both wonderful songs) his backscratch was an Alexa Wilkinson song (Alexa was new to us too, more on her later).

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Scott Chasolen on vocals and keyboards. Another one we hadn’t heard of. Also excellent! I loved both of his originals. His backscratch was a Matt Simons song (I’m Already Over You). We’re big fans of Matt and Scott did him proud (IMHO).

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Scott performs with two others and they are known as the Scott Chasolen Trio:

Adam Minkoff on electric bass and light harmony. Very nice job.

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Josh Giunta on drums. Excellent. A lot of eyes were on Josh during a fair amount of Scott’s set. No good photo of Josh, sorry.

Sierra Noble on vocals, acoustic guitar and violin. We’ve seen Sierra Noble backing up both Rachel Platten and Martin Rivas (back-to-back sets on the same night). I am aware of how much her fellow musicians respect and love her, but that night, while she did a fine job, I didn’t see the light. Last night, headlining the three-song set, I got it. She has an incredible voice. She writes beautiful songs.

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Sierra was accompanied by Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and a lot of harmony, Chris Anderson on electric bass and light harmony and Craig Meyer on the drums (Craig is the co-founder of Backscratch with Martin Rivas).

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Not much else needs to be added. But, let’s add an anecdote (actually two!) anyway. Her backscratch was a Chris Ayer song. Sierra was expecting Greg Mayo to show up in time to perform it with her (and Martin, Chris and Craig). Greg must have been held up in traffic. Somehow, that threw Sierra off a bit.

While she did a great job on the parts that she got out (did I mention she has a great voice?), she also lost it (laughing) a number of times (including dropping the lyrics on the floor). The mood was light in the room and everyone got a kick out of it, including Chris Ayer. Sierra correctly noted that Chris is a poet and that it was difficult to sing his song because she hadn’t graduated from college (could be a joke, but it was an honest homage to how wonderful Chris’ lyrics are!).

The other one is a small world story. I’ve written a number of times about a great singer/songwriter, Jesse Terry. We’re going to see him again twice in May, once in Rockwood (next week) and the week after at a house concert (where we first saw him). Appearing with him at both shows is a friend of his, Michael Logen. Jesse has told me how much I am going to like Michael. One of Sierra’s originals was co-written with Michael Logen. Martin sang Michael’s part in gorgeous harmony with Sierra.

Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and vocals. Martin opened with Raise Me Again. That song gets to me every time (including last night). His second song was a new one (excellent!). Rachel Platten was standing behind us and she couldn’t resist singing some soft harmony with Martin (wonderful).

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Pick up Rachel’s new album, Be Here (released today!), it’s fantastic!

For his backscratch, Martin drew Bess Rogers. He played Come Home. In case that wasn’t good enough (it was!), he morphed the end into a song that most people in the audience recognized, but I believe were still caught completely by surprise!

Bess Rogers is in the final four days of a very successful Kickstarter project. You should watch the video on her Kickstarter page to see how records are made. Martin performed that song (perfectly) and everyone was blown away (especially Bess). You still have a chance to contribute to Bess’ record. Stop thinking, just do it. Smile

Chris Ayer on acoustic guitar and vocals. Chris played Graduate and Stranded (two of our favorite Chris Ayer songs). Throughout the evening (3+ hours), there was generally a background noise of some people talking steadily at the bar. Occasionally it was annoying, most of the time it was reasonably white noise. When Chris played Stranded (a relatively long song), you could have heard a pin drop (as it should have been for every song by every performer!).

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On Graduate, Chris was accompanied by Matt Simons on keyboards and Chris Anderson on electric bass. On Stranded, Matt accompanied and Chris Anderson left the stage. For his backscratch, Chris Ayer played a Sierra Noble song solo. Wow! Not just Chris’ performance, but Sierra’s song. Chris didn’t even look over at his sheet music. Sierra was standing a few people behind us and she sang some soft harmony with Chris (that most probably couldn’t hear, but I could). It was amazing!

Bess Rogers performed two new songs (acoustic guitar and vocals) accompanied by her husband, Chris Kuffner, on acoustic guitar (Chris also sang harmony). Both songs were hits with the crowd and I assume (but don’t know) that they will both be on Bess’ new CD. Bess drew Rebecca Haviland for her backscratch.

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Rebecca Haviland on electric guitar, keyboards and vocals. Rebecca honored the original spirit of Backscratch by performing an original, a well-known cover and a backscratch. Let’s get out the most important thing first, Rebecca has a phenomenal voice. She plays the guitar well. She really shines on the keyboards. For her cover, she chose Black Dog by Led Zeppelin. If you didn’t know the title, or recognize the words, you would never have known it was a Led Zeppelin song. She (and her band) made it completely their own, a slow, soul/funk version.

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On those songs Rebecca was accompanied by Greg Mayo on keyboards (yes, he eventually showed up), Chris Anderson on electric bass and Kenny Shaw on drums. All were great, as we’ve come to expect.

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For her backscratch, Rebecca switched to the piano and Greg to the electric guitar. She played a Martin Rivas tune with such heart and soul (joking in advance that she had to change it up a bit, since Martin is the king of soul!). Greg played a couple of long guitar solos. If you’re read this space before, you know that this excites and soothes me at the same time. I will never get enough of Greg Mayo’s guitar play. Thank goodness he showed up! Smile

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Alexa Wilkinson on acoustic guitar and vocals. I’ve been following Alexa on Twitter for quite a while but have never seen her perform. We had planned to catch Mercy Bell, Julie Peel and Alexa at the Living Room a long time ago, but I got very sick and we never made it. Alexa has a wonderful voice and accompanies herself on the guitar very well. I enjoyed both of her songs. For her backscratch, she drew Shwa. Alexa has a relaxed and funny stage presence in addition to her musical talents.

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Matt Simons closed the show on keyboards and vocals. He too reverted to the original spirit. After his original song, he played one by Death Cab for Cutie. He was accompanied by Greg Mayo on electric guitar and Chris Anderson on bass and Kenny Shaw for his original number. For his backscratch, he drew Scott Chasolen (who had drawn him, as did Sierra/Chris). He did a fantastic job (making me want to hear more Scott originals).

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Even though we didn’t get home until 12:20am, it was well worth it.